Big adjustment for Holgorsen

Offensive-minded coach eyes defense

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Even though he rose through the coaching ranks on the offensive side, West Virginia's Dana Holgorsen has enjoyed getting in the defensive huddle as part of his new role as the Mountaineers' head coach.

Just don't expect to hear a lot of X's and O's from him.

"They can be talking about a call, and I don't know what it means," Holgorsen said.

"I just get in there and mess around with them a little bit, whether it is encouraging them or giving them crap."

Holgorsen is facing the difficult transition from offensive coordinator to first-time Division I head coach, and one of the biggest challenges he will face is defining his role with the defense.

For the most part, Holgorsen has indicated that returning defensive coordinator Jeff Casteel will have a large amount of autonomy when it comes to coaching the unit.

Casteel returns this year for his 10th year in Morgantown. Defensive coaches Steve Dunlap (safeties), Bill Kirelawich (defensive line) and David Lockwood (cornerbacks) have a combined 59 years of West Virginia coaching experience. And, even though the Mountaineers are replacing seven starters, Casteel's 3-3-5 defense should look remarkably similar. For Holgorsen, the status quo is fine.

"I am completely, 100 percent satisfied with what the scheme is," he said.

"And I haven't sat in one defensive meeting and [given] him suggestions on what I feel they need to do based on the fact I feel that they do a really good job."

Such meetings were not supposed to be on Holgorsen's agenda until 2012.

He was hired in December to serve as offensive coordinator for a season before taking over as head coach next year, but Bill Stewart's resignation under fire in June pushed Holgorsen into the head spot sooner than planned.

Even though all four defensive coaches are holdovers from the Stewart regime, Holgorsen said the transition has been smooth.

"Looking back three months ago where we were at, this staff is pretty united," he said. "We've gotten to know each other pretty well both offensively and defensively ... I couldn't be any happier with how everyone is meshing."

At practice, Holgorsen said he spends about 33 percent of his time working and calling plays with the offense, and the rest of practice "bouncing around, talking, seeing and evaluating everybody."

"I'm going to call the [offensive] plays, and I signal in the stuff," he said. "[But] I have guys that I trust who can get it called correctly and make good decisions."

Holgorsen will leave defensive adjustments to Casteel, but he will keep an eye on the defense.

"Before, I never used to care about them whatsoever," he said of the defense. "I used to do everything I could to beat them. But, now, it's a little different."


Sam Werner: swerner@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1459.


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